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Beyond the cult of domesticity: Exploring the material and spatial expressions of multiple gender ideologies in Deerfield, Massachusetts, ca. 1750–ca. 1911

Deborah L Rotman, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation explores the material and spatial expressions of gender and relations on the rural landscape of the village of Deerfield, Massachusetts. Although the cult of domesticity has been the most widely studied, additional gender ideologies such as equal rights feminism, domestic reform, and others—also structured human interactions during the second half of the eighteenth through the early twentieth centuries. Three homelots on the village landscape served as the primary case studies for this research. Architectural changes and ceramic assemblages from archaeological deposits were central to the analyses. Three models were used to understand gender ideologies, including Yentsch's (1991) model for differential color coding and usage of ceramic vessels, Wall's (1994) analysis of changing decorative motifs, and Shackel's (1993) and Leone's (1999) formulas for measuring the penetration of modern discipline. Deviations from expected material patterns were re-examined within a dialectical framework. This work stresses the multiscalar aspect of landscapes and includes the interior spaces of structures. Additionally, this research emphasizes the interrelatedness of modern discipline and gender ideologies, both of which were expressed through the materiality of segmented dining. This research yielded several important results. First a separation of gender roles existed prior to the codification of the cult of domesticity and was, therefore, not the exclusive domain of that ideology. Second, domesticity appeared and was codified in this rural village at about the same time as its material manifestations were occurring in more urban locations. Third, the extent to which a household followed the dictates of a given gender ideology was influenced by its position in the developing class structure. Finally, the materiality of domestic reform, equal rights feminism, and other alternative gender systems occurred in Deerfield at a level beyond the home: that is, at the level of the Street or village. These results mean that the advances in the study of gender by historical archaeologists can be productively supplemented by considering a wider range of gender systems, observing their articulation with developing class systems, and considering the many spatial scales influenced by gender.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Rotman, Deborah L, "Beyond the cult of domesticity: Exploring the material and spatial expressions of multiple gender ideologies in Deerfield, Massachusetts, ca. 1750–ca. 1911" (2001). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3027250.